Bet On It: Week 7 predictions
Although my record has been consistently bad, last week is the first time I'm really embarrassed by a couple of predictions. Betting on Brady Quinn? That should count as two losses. What can I say, I was caught up in all the Notre Dame hype. Feel free to rip me for thinking the Cardinals would protect Kevin Kolb or doubting the Giants' offense as well.
Two of the picks from last week, however, should have paid off. The Eagles shut down Matthew Stafford until late in the fourth quarter -- they just forgot to cover Tony Scheffler on a 57-yard bomb, and it cost defensive coordinator Juan Castillo his job. And Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers did combine for 600 yards if you count all the yards after catch the Broncos defenders had after intercepting Rivers.
This week we're giving love to the Browns, because they follow a similar path to my picks this year. Tough losses early, but steady improvement. Now we're a team you don't want to face. Of course, the Browns did just shake up the front office, so maybe that's not an analogy I'm comfortable with.
Don't be fooled by the 49ers' meltdown against the Giants. They still have an outstanding defense and the Seahawks' offense hasn't been impressive on the road, averaging 15 points per game. Look for the Niners' pass rush to get back on track Thursday night. Seattle could also be vulnerable to a letdown after their big win over the Patriots.
Skelton was only sacked once in his only start this season, Week 1 against Seattle. But the Cardinals' offensive line has gone from bad to terrible. And the Arizona coaching staff will stress avoiding interceptions, which means Skelton will have to hold on to the ball instead of forcing it.
Andrew Luck was inaccurate last week under a heavy pass rush from the Jets, but he's played much better at home. Meanwhile, Weeden is still 32nd in the NFL in passer rating, but he seems to get more comfortable each week and has a big-play threat in rookie receiver Josh Gordon.
Chicago leads the NFL with 13 interceptions and will be looking for the big play against the Lions. Matthew Stafford's fourth-quarter and overtime heroics covered up a poor performance the first three quarters. He'll face a stiffer challenge against a Bears defense that is well rested after a bye week.
In his last three games against the Jets, Brady has thrown for 326, 321 and 329 yards. He'll stay in the 320s or go over against a Revis-less Jets secondary. Antonio Cromartie has actually done a nice job filling in as the top cornerback, shutting down Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne. But the Pats hit you from all angles, and the Jets don't have an answer for their tight ends.
The Cardinals' defense focuses on rushing the passer and ranks 19th against the run. Expect them to take a defender out of the box to focus on slowing down Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, who leads the NFL with 49 receptions.
Foster had just 29 yards on 17 carries last Sunday night against the Packers. But he had success against Baltimore in last season's playoffs with 132 rushing yards. The Ravens will have to figure out their defensive plan of attack without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb, and they already rank No. 26 in the NFL against the run.
Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is very comfortable with the rookie receiver and the Titans should have success in the air against Buffalo. With Hasselbeck under center, Wright had nine catches for 66 yards in Week 5 against the Vikings and six catches for 71 yards last week against the Steelers. And now defenses have to worry about a healthy Kenny Britt. Look for Wright to get his yards per catch up against the Bills.
The Rams have the No. 7 defense in the NFL, but the Texans' D was also highly rated before Rodgers tore them apart. With no running game to count on, Rodgers will once again be the Packers' main scoring weapon. Rodgers criticized his own play this season before the Texans game, but he appears to have re-focused and has adjusted to life without star receiver Greg Jennings.
Nicks practiced on a Wednesday for the first time all season this week. He doesn't need to be 100 percent to be a big target for Eli Manning. In Week 2 he had 10 catches for 199 yards in that wild game against the Bucs. That game seemed to wear Nicks down, but that doesn't mean that Eli won't hesitate to call his number often in an important divisional game.